Progress: Merrikay Brown longtime librarian and president of the Historical Society, is ‘one of the reasons Lewisville is a great place to live’
Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 20, 2023
As the director of the Lewisville Branch Library for more than three decades along with being the longtime president of the town’s Historical Society, probably no one knows more about Lewisville than Merrikay Brown.
Heck, she even helped put together a book on Lewisville.
“When I came here, especially to Lewisville when I got married, I said ‘I’m going to put down roots.’ ” Brown said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever put down roots, and I’ve been here more than 40 years.”
Growing up in a military family, Brown was constantly on the move every three years before going to college at N.C. State, graduating with a degree in Spanish and English education, and becoming a teacher.
However, after teaching middle school for a couple of years and then serving as a school media specialist in Robeson County, she decided to go in a different direction — opting to get her master’s degree in library science from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Brown came to Forsyth County in 1982 and worked two years at the Central Public Library in downtown Winston-Salem before coming to Lewisville in 1984, the same year she married Tom Brown, who owned a historic house in Clemmons.
“And then, the library director at the time said, ‘Well, I’ll just give you a wedding present.’ ”
Brown recalled. “He gave me the Lewisville branch, which was then across the street in the shopping center. We had a lot of fun there. It was a very cozy library. It started out at 2,000 square feet and was expanded to 4,000 square feet.”
As Lewisville continued to grow, a new, bigger, better library with 15,000 square feet was proposed and approved, opening in 2007 on the corner across from Town Hall. Brown continued to lead the local branch until her retirement in 2015.
“I’ve just really enjoyed my career at the library,” Brown said. “The community is so wonderful.
I’ve gotten into some of the clubs — Lewisville Civic Club, the Friends of the Library. It was just something that I really liked to do.
“When I came into the public library, I felt like I had just come into my own because it was one on one helping somebody, and I just wanted to help. I’m a real joiner, like at church you know they would ask for somebody to do something, and my hand would be in the air, and it was the same thing with these clubs.”
She was the first president of the Lewisville Historical Society, which actually got started a month before the town was officially incorporated on Aug. 13, 1991, and served for a couple of years in that capacity. Brown returned as president in 2012 and is still running the show.
In her various roles, she naturally learned a great deal about Lewisville, but after getting a call from Arcadia Publishing and doing the book on the town (as part of an “Images of America” series) with her good friend Darla Johnson added to the knowledge.
“It was a lot of work in putting everything together,” Brown said. “They called me and said they were trying to get more books on towns, so I talked to Darla because she’s a writer, and it struck a chord for both of us. A lot of families ended up bringing in photos, and we were helped by people who knew a lot of the history.”
Where does she start with all the rich history in Lewisville?
“The Great Wagon Road and the wagons, and the Shallow Ford, which is not far from here, and that’s why Winston is there because the Shallow Ford was the link in the Great Wagon Road,” Brown said. “It went from Philadelphia Pa., to Augusta Ga., and went right through Lewisville.
Lewisville’s current roads are the closest to the old road track anywhere in Forsyth County.”
Those are just starters from a long list including the George Elias Nissen House, built in 1876 — and saving it — which has been a point of emphasis for years.
“I remember on my birthday in 2008, the Courier came out with a photo that said this house was going to be bulldozed because a doctor’s company wants to come in and build, and they can’t use the house,” Brown said. “We were all shocked in the Historical Society. We had just learned from research of the significance of that house, so we were all up in arms and had people sign petitions. It was in middling shape. It was owned by somebody, but they really didn’t move into it. He was going to sell it to send his kid to college.”
With the help of citizens and the town, $150,000 was raised to move it from Shallowford Road on Jan. 1, 2009, a block away to its present location on nearby Arrow Leaf Drive near the intersection of Lucy Lane — and efforts have continued over the years to raise funding, including restoring it, through help from donors, grants and various other means to keep it afloat.
“We’re ready to open it to the public as a rental venue,” Brown said. “We still haven’t saved it. It has to pay for itself. This is preservation for you. It’s an ongoing thing. We have now started a new nonprofit board that is going to take it over, run it and own it while actually spinning it off from the Lewisville Historical Society.”
She and husband Tom bought 10 acres and built a house on Bullard Road at the edge of the old Lewisville Township with a Clemmons address in unincorporated Forsyth County more than 20 years ago where he grows heritage apples, and they enjoy all of the many things Lewisville has to offer.
“It’s the people, the people are so friendly, the landscape is not so filled with buildings, there’s nice beautiful landscapes and trees,” she said. “There’s the Conrad Road with the beautiful maple trees and lots of land on Shallowford Road, and nice houses, historical houses. It’s just more of a feel of families living out here. Since the town was formed in 1991, they’ve added to the town square, more parks and the new state park coming at the Shallow Ford.”
There’s also Merrikay Brown, who was just honored with being presented a certificate stating “I’m One of the Reasons Lewisville is a Great Place to Live” in the March 2023 town council meeting “for outstanding contributions to the Town of Lewisville and residents.”
That’s one of the things that can happen when you put down roots.